DSLR vs. Point and Shoot Cameras

Explore Your Camera Options, There's Something for Every Photographer

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Cameras come in many shapes and sizes and each is useful for a variety of needs. There are, however, two main types of cameras available today, the DSLR (or SLR) and the point and shoot. 

If you are seeking a dedicated camera (not found on your phone) to take great photographs, you will want to consider one of these cameras. Each comes with their own advantages and disadvantages, yet there is a camera available for every level of photography.

What is a Point and Shoot Camera?

Point and shoot cameras mean just that: point the camera at something and shoot a picture. The camera does all the work for you. Unfortunately, the camera is rarely as smart as the photographer so the results can be iffy.

Point and shoot cameras are often abbreviated as P&S and are sometimes referred to as compact cameras. These cameras started out as a fixed lens that focused about 4 feet in front of the camera with a fixed aperture and shutter speed. It was basically a box with a shutter. Then the lab that developed the film did what it could to fix the exposure.

Today's P&S cameras are much more sophisticated and often include a zoom lens, exposure modes, and many other features. While there are still some P&S film cameras, such as the disposable or one-time use cameras, most are now digital.

Features of P&S Cameras

While they can vary, most point and shoot cameras include standard features.

  • Metering systems to calculate the amount of light entering the camera.
  • Variable shutter speed
  • Variable aperture
  • Zoom lenses
  • Automatic focus
  • Preset controls for various photographic situations such as landscapes, night photography, people, and close-ups.

The Pros and Cons of P&S Cameras

The biggest drawback to P&S cameras is that many do not have the through the lens (TTL) viewfinder found in SLRs.

This means that what you see through your viewfinder may not be exactly what is captured on the film or digital media. Yet, it is accurate enough to the point where most consumers do not realize this.

P&S cameras are usually small and can fit into a pocket or purse. They are best used for casual picture taking when capturing a memory is more important than creating a marketable image.

While cellphone cameras have taken the place of many P&S cameras, a dedicated camera still has its advantages. Primarily, that is the quality of a photograph taken with a lens dedicated to camera optics rather than a tiny lens built into a phone.

Popular Point and Shoot Cameras

While digital photography and the rise of cameras in phones reduced the compact camera market significantly, there are still some quality P&S cameras being made. If you are looking for an easy to use, compact camera that takes higher quality pictures than your phone, check out the latest offerings from these manufacturers.

What Are SLR and DSLR Cameras?

SLR stands for Single Lens Reflex and DSLR stands for Digital Single Lens Reflex and both refer to how the light enters the camera. These are the cameras you see many professionals and serious amateurs lugging around.

SLR cameras have a larger body than most P&S cameras and the ability to use interchangeable lenses. While SLRs started out as fully manual and the photographer had to control all of the features including focus, most of these cameras are capable of acting in a fully automatic mode just like a P&S.

Almost every DSLR and SLR camera allows the photographer the freedom to also take control of all the functions or any combination of the functions as they see fit. These cameras allow for great control over the photography process and allow the photographer to take the high-quality images that are not always possible with compact cameras.

Features of SLR and DSLR Cameras

Photographers use SLR and DSLR cameras because of the level of control they provide over the taking of a photograph. Almost every DSLR offers the following:

  • Shutter speed (automatic and manual control)
  • Aperture (automatic and manual control)
  • Film speed or ISO (the control is included in DSLRs as well)
  • Multiple automatic focus points
  • Magnification (through the use of various lenses)
  • Capability for add-on flashes or control external light sets
  • Remote releases (useful for long exposures and times when you cannot reach the shutter button)
  • Additional battery packs (these cameras love to eat up battery power, so have spares with you)

The Pros and Cons of SLR Cameras

One of the primary advantages of SLR and DSLR cameras is the ability to create high-quality images. Between the advanced technology in the digital sensors (or the ability to use film) and the optical quality of the lenses, these cameras produce the sharpest photographs with remarkable clarity and color reproduction.

Photographers do have to lug around more equipment with SLR cameras, but the control over the photographs is worth the extra weight. 

As digital technology improves, DSLRs are the focus for camera manufacturers and it is on these camera bodies where you will find the latest and greatest features. The bells and whistles change with each year's new releases and it would be difficult to list every one of them here.

The major drawback is the price. Even at the lower end of SLR cameras, they can cost hundreds more than point and shoot cameras. Add to that the cost of extra lenses and accessories and it will not be a small investment in your camera equipment. Yet, you can take that to any level you wish and spend as little or as much money as you like.

The thing that you should know is that if you are looking for the best camera, SLRs are the place to look. These camera bodies give you the ultimate control over your photography while making it easy at the same time.

Popular DSLR Cameras

There are many manufacturers of DSLR cameras today, though Nikon and Canon still rule the market. These two brands have dominated the SLR market from the early days of 35mm film and continue to produce some of the top-rated digital cameras today.

This also means that there are more lenses and accessories available for both brands. You will find a variety of camera bodies available for pros and amateurs at various price points.

Yet, there are other camera brands worth noting in the DSLR category. Fuji, Pentax, and even Sony are now making some impressive cameras that you might want to consider.

One important thing to consider with DSLRs is your ability to upgrade and that is why many photographers have stuck with either Canon or Nikon through the years. It is very convenient (and easy on the wallet) to upgrade the camera body and still be able to use the same lenses and accessories you already have.